Iran has stayed within key limits on its nuclear activities imposed by a 2015 deal with world powers but is close to once again breaching a ceiling on its stock of one chemical, a report by the U.N. atomic watchdog showed on Friday.
The report was the second since the January inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called the pact between six powers and Iran “the worst deal ever negotiated” and branded Tehran an enemy in contrast with his predecessor Barack Obama.
Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium as of May 27 was 79.8 kg (175.5 pounds), well below a 202.8-kg (446-pound) limit, and the level of enrichment did not exceed a 3.67 percent cap – well under the maximum 5 percent regarded as suitable for civilian energy uses, the International Atomic Energy said in a confidential report sent to member states and seen by Reuters.
Obtaining enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium is the biggest hurdle to producing a nuclear weapon. The 2015 deal aimed to extend the time Iran would need to assemble an atomic bomb, if it chose to, to a year from a few months. Weapons-grade uranium has an enrichment level of around 90 percent.
Iran’s stock of heavy water, a chemical used as a moderator in a type of nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, was 128.2 tonnes on May 16, just below a 130-tonne limit, the IAEA report said. Iran was building one such reactor but it has had its core removed under the deal and it is being redesigned.
Tehran has already breached that limit twice since the deal was put in place, prompting the IAEA to express “concerns” and drawing rebukes from Washington and other Western powers. The deal calls for any excess amount to be sold to a foreign buyer, and Iran has shipped the surplus to Oman while it looks for one.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Mark Heinrich)